THE SOCIAL NETWORK is the new Dave Fincher picture about the founding of the “Facebook” company, which has had alot of success creating a type of “social networking,” so that’s why it’s called that. You may be thinking Vern, I’ve heard the words before in buzz and in word-of-the-mouth, but what in shit’s name is social networking? Well, let me explain. Social networking is a type of computer thing, or “facebook”, that goes in the lower right hand corner of the page. When people sign in they click “like,” and then some of their pictures show up on there sometimes. It tells them when I have a new review, either because Chris posts it on there, or he programmed it to do it, nobody really knows. This is a way to make new friends or promote your thing, or whatever. That’s why social networking is the future of, you know, computer things.
Now that we’re all on the same page (http://www.outlawvern.com/2010/10/02/-the-social-network/) let’s discuss the movie. Jesse Eisenberg, the top screen portrayer of smart, awkward pricks (see SQUID VS. WHALE), plays Mark Zuckerberg, the real life founder of Facebook. In the beginning of the movie he says some stupid shit about his girlfriend (the girl that’s gonna play THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO) and gets dumped. Pissed off, he deals with it by drinking beer and writing on his Livejournal that she’s a bitch and has small tits, then with the help of his best friend Eduardo (the guy that’s gonna play SPIDER-MAN) and others (the kid from JURASSIC PARK I think) programming a thing where people look at pictures of female Harvard students and vote which one is hotter. This gets him into trouble but also brings him to the attention of the Winklevoss twins (the guy who was gonna play Batman in George Miller’s JUSTICE LEAGUE) who want him to help program an idea they have for a Harvard-exclusive social networking deal. He agrees, but instead makes a similar thing without telling them and registers it at thefacebook.com.
The story of the creation and success of Facebook unfolds in flashbacks as it’s told by the various parties at a deposition for a lawsuit where Mark is being sued by the twins and by Eduardo, his best friend who puts up the money for thefacebook.com in the first place. I’ve seen it described as “RASHOMON style,” but I didn’t notice the different perspectives contradicting each other, it’s not that fancy I don’t think.
The script is by Aaron Sorkin, the playwright who wrote A FEW GOOD MEN and created the tv show “The West Wing.” That means every character is hyper-literate and speaks about ten thousand words a second and the movie is about 99% people talking at each other like they’re having a roman candle fight with words. It’s a little bit much to keep up with, but I felt like about halfway through the opening scene my brain became acclimated and I was fine. But if you can’t stand stylized dialogue where everybody always knows the smartest thing to say without pausing to think about it you better stay the fuck away.
Since the director is David Fincher of course it has excellent performances and pacing, flawless photography and invisible special effects. I think he stays in the background here, willing to play rhythm guitar to Sorkin’s endless show-offy solo. There’s just one weird musical boat racing scene that I think is his way of asking Sorkin’s characters “WILL YOU OBNOXIOUS TWATS SHUT YOUR FUCKING MOUTHS FOR ONE GOD DAMNED MINUTE SO I CAN GET SOME PEACE AND QUIET AROUND HERE?!?”
To be fair he does get to do some visual storytelling even while the fuckers are yapping. I really like the way the scene of him creating his first revenge-program is intercut with scenes of all the parties and shit going on on campus. It’s all the stuff he feels excluded from, but also probly the stuff he’s excluding himself from by sitting in his dorm room staring at the computer machine.
The score is by Trent Reznor, whose band The Nine Inch Nails really spoke to angsty teens before you guys were born, but for a long time he left music to pursue his other passion of playing video games. But he did a good job here of making nerds typing on computers seem exciting the same way the Dust Brothers made shirtless office workers punching each other seem exciting in FIGHT CLUB.
Speaking of typing on computers, I appreciate that this is one of the very few movies where they seem to just use real computer stuff on the screens instead of dumbed down fake ones with giant letters, spinning animations and bleeping and blooping sounds. During the important scene where he writes mean things about his ex online it includes the <p>s and </p>s that he types out. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that in a movie or TV show before.
Some gunjumpers are saying THE SOCIAL NETWORK defines a generation or a decade or some shit like that. I don’t know, because how can you say this guy represents his generation? Isn’t the whole point of telling his story that he’s unique? But I guess we can agree that it’s a movie about the last decade or so. This is a phenomenon now, the computer genius college kids that create something in their dorm room that years later is a multi-billion dollar company. I’m sure you and I would’ve done that also, but they didn’t have computers back then. Plus, hindsight is 20/20.
But you know, Rick Rubin started Def Jam in his dorm room, produced several landmark mid to late ’80s hip hop albums, went on as a great producer behind that incredible run of “American Recordings” records with Johnny Cash, plus Jay-Z’s “99 Problems”… What I’m saying is it’s possible to do something like that but create lasting works of art that move people instead of just finding ways for people to waste their time clicking on things and taking quizzes. Also you can have a crazy ZZ Top type beard.
But maybe there is some art to programming. To be honest I’m not sure I entirely understand what it means when they say they “invented” Facebook. Obviously they programmed it, but how was the idea that the twins had or that Mark had significantly different from the already existing programs mentioned in the movie like MySpace and Friendster? Or the Harvard web page he got the idea and name from? Or also how is it different from friendpalz, which I invented, although it has not been programmed or registered yet? It’s exactly like all of those programs I mentioned except with the important improvement that I am the inventor and owner of it.
I’m writing this review the same day as seeing the movie, which I don’t usually do these days. But it’s in the spirit of people posting things they shouldn’t on their Facebook pages. I probly need more time for this movie to soak in, my feelings about some of this stuff could very well slide around before the glue dries. But my feeling while watching the movie was that it’s very good, but held to the lofty David Fincher standards I think it’s got some weaknesses. I want my Fincher movies to be perfect, but this didn’t work 100% for me. There is a margin of error.
The story is sort of book-ended by two scenes of women bringing up a question of whether or not Mark is an asshole. At the beginning his about-to-be-ex-girlfriend tells him that he’ll grow up to be very successful and he’ll think girls don’t like him because he’s a nerd, but it won’t be true, they won’t like him because he’s an asshole. At the end (and when I say “at the end” what I really mean is HOLY SHIT HERE COMES A SPOILER) a lawyer played by Rashida Jones tells him “You’re not an asshole. But you try so hard to be.” And that kind of threw me because I think she’s supposed to be right (or maybe I just assume everything Rashida Jones says is right because, hubba hubba in my opinion, Thriller was not the only masterpiece Quincy Jones produced [I apologize]). But if the story supports that statement I didn’t pick up on it. I think the girl at the beginning was right. The guy is an asshole. He earned the dumping at the beginning, and he never learned a lesson from that, just spending the rest of the movie bitterly trying to beat that girl by being successful. He had one very loyal friend at the beginning, and he deliberately fucked him over. There were some guys who thought he was talented, he ripped off their idea and only compensated them when forced to by a lawsuit.
There are other interesting sides to his character – it’s said more than once that he doesn’t care about money, as demonstrated by his opposition to advertising and his story about giving away for free a program that Microsoft tried to buy from him. So what drives him? Status (in the opening scene he’s obsessed with exclusive clubs, his friend thinks he’s jealous of him getting in one) and wanting to show this girl who dumped him a thing or two. But it seems to me there’s gotta be more than that, or if there’s not, there’s gotta be a reason why he got to be such a shallow husk of a human. As the story is wrapping up there are suggestions that he’s not that shallow, that he has a soul and conscience, and the very end is a great computery way to illustrate the tragedy of the situation he got himself into. But where did that come from? Why didn’t we see it before? Eduardo is kind of the lead character for alot of the movie, since the book is based on his claims. So Mark is left somewhat mysterious, but then it ends on him. Is he really not an asshole? I wanna see more proof.
So I feel like as a portrait of a personality there’s a little piece either missing or that I’m missing. But it’s a good story, full of interesting ironies. Here is this websight all about “friends,” made because he says people like to look up their friends online. But offline the guy has no concept of friendship. He has one really good and forgiving friend at the beginning but he trades him in for a “cool” friend, the party dude who started Napster played by Justin Timberlake. (The movie doesn’t acknowledge that that guy ripped off the idea for Napster from Seth Green’s character in the ITALIAN JOB remake).
And there are the little ironies too, like the way their popularizing of this websight affected their own lives. Like Eduardo’s girlfriend gets pissed at him because of the relationship status on his Facebook page.
In my opinion this movie is a rebuttal to REVENGE OF THE NERDS. Here are these two friends, Mark I guess is Robert Carradine, the socially awkard super genius, and Eduardo is Anthony Edwards the more laid back and reasonable best friend. They have a hard time getting into the exclusive clubs, but they use their nerd powers to create something that gets them blowjobs. The problem is these nerds start getting revenge on some guys who didn’t do anything that requires vengeance.
Mark resents the twins for being jocks (I guess at Harvard people who row boats are jocks). They’re tall, handsome, athletic and come from a rich family, but they’ve done nothing to deserve his hatred. In fact when he rips off their idea they’re timid about retribution because they believe they’re “Harvard gentlemen” and should be able to settle it honorably by talking to the guy. They can’t though because they’re the only ones that follow a code of honor, he doesn’t. One of the twins points out “I’m 6’5″, weigh 220 and there are two of me,” and yet they don’t punch the little weiner’s face in either. One of them even points out that he doesn’t want to be the asshole bully in a movie, but he doesn’t say REVENGE OF THE NERDS, he says THE KARATE KID. But it’s not a very good comparison because he doesn’t learn a special move that he does at the end, so it’s more like REVENGE OF THE NERDS. I’m not sure which one is Booger though. Maybe Joseph Mazello. If so he shoulda had more dialogue.
Anyway it’s good. If you have any questions drop me a line on friendpalz.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.